Covid-19 has infected more than 269M people and killed over 5.3M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Protesters demonstrate against the Austrian government’s measures taken in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on December 11, 2021 in Vienna. (AFP) Saturday, December 11, 2021
Tens of thousands protest Austria compulsory jabs
Tens of thousands have protested in Austria’s capital Vienna against the mandatory Covid-19 vaccines and home confinement orders for those who have not yet received the jabs.
Police said an estimated 44,000 people attended the demonstration on Saturday, the latest in a string of huge weekend protests since Austria last month became the first EU country to say it would make vaccinations mandatory.
A partial confinement since last month ends on Sunday for the vaccinated, but those who have not received the required doses will have to remain at home.
“No to vaccine fascism,” read one protest sign.
“I’m not a neo-Nazi or a hooligan,” said another, “I’m fighting for freedom and against the vaccine.”
Vaccination is to be obligatory from February for all residents older than 14, except in the case of a dispensation for health reasons.
Nobody will be vaccinated by force, the government has said, but those who refuse the shot will have to pay an initial fine of 600 euros ($670), which can then increase to 3,600 euros ($4,000) if not settled.
UK scientists urge more restrictions to fight omicron
The British government may need to introduce tougher restrictions to slow the growth of the omicron variant and prevent a new surge in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths, British scientists have said.
The UK health officials say omicron is spreading much more quickly than the delta strain and is likely to replace it and become the dominant variant in Britain within days.
The UK recorded 58,194 coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number since January, though what portion were the omicron variant is unclear.
France pushes vaccination campaign amid surge
Authorities in France want to accelerate vaccinations against the coronavirus before Christmas as infections surge and more people with Covid-19 seek medical attention.
“People can celebrate Christmas normally, but we must respect the rules…and get vaccinated,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex told public radio outlet France Blue during an interview in the Alsace region late Friday.
France has registered a daily average of more than 44,000 new cases over the last week, a 36 percent increase from the previous week, according to the latest government figures. Weekly hospitalizations of people with Covid-19 went up 1,120, a 41 percent rise.
The government on Monday closed nightclubs until January 6 and tightened social distancing measures in closed spaces and outdoors. Castex said the government is not considering another lockdown that would limit or prohibit public events and social gatherings.
Italy reports over 21,000 cases, 96 deaths
Italy has reported 96 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, down from 118 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 21,042.
New cases had jumped by nearly two thirds on Friday to 20,497.
With 96 victims in the past 24 hours, Italy has registered 134,765 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world.
The country has reported 5.2 million cases to date.
Over 121.6M vaccine shots given in Turkey to date
Turkey has administered more than 121.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched an immunization drive in January, according to official figures.
Over 56.5 million people have received a first vaccine dose, while nearly 50.9 million have been fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.
Turkey has also given third booster shots to more than 12.6 million people.
Meanwhile, the ministry confirmed 19,255 new coronavirus infections, 191 related deaths, and 23,180 recoveries over the past day.
As many as 349,221 virus tests were done in the past 24 hours.
Taiwan confirms first cases of Omicron
Taiwan has confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, found in three people who had arrived from abroad.
The island’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said the infections were found in travellers arriving from Britain, the southern African nation of Eswatini and the United States.
Like all entrants, they were tested on arrival and already subject to two weeks of quarantine.
The self-ruling island has a strict two-week quarantine on arrival and has sealed its borders off to all but residents and citizens, with few exceptions.
Mauritius records first two Omicron cases
The Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius has recorded its first two infections of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, both linked to people returned from South Africa, with a dozen more contact cases feared.
Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal told a press conference on Friday the pair were asymptomatic and had tested negative the day before.
“They have already gone home,” he said.
He added that contract tracing for the two people had been carried out, revealing 12 positive cases with a missing S gene – a tell-tale sign of Omicron.
Health authorities were currently analysing the samples to determine if they are in fact Omicron.
Ukraine receives more World Bank funds to fight Covid
The World Bank has approved an additional $150 million loan to help Ukraine speed up vaccinations against Covid-19, the international lender’s Ukrainian office said.
Ukraine’s government will spend $120 million on 16.5 million vaccine doses and the rest will be used for IT, communications and public outreach, capacity building and cold chain and waste management equipment, the World Bank said.
The new funds add to $155 million provided this year through two projects to support Ukrainian healthcare in the pandemic.
UEFA cancels Covid-postponed Tottenham v Rennes tie
UEFA has announced the cancellation of Tottenham’s Covid-postponed Europa Conference League game against Rennes.
The two clubs were unable to find a suitable date to reschedule Thursday’s game and “as a consequence, the match can no longer be played”, European football’s governing body explained.
UEFA’s disciplinary wing will determine a result for the scrapped fixture.
The ruling will please Group G winners Rennes.
Mexico reports 199 more Covid deaths
Mexico’s health ministry reported 199 more deaths from Covid-19 in the country, bringing the official toll since the pandemic began to 296,385.
The health ministry has previously said that the real number is likely significantly higher.
Infections up by 37%, deaths 28% in US
The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases in the United States was up 37 percent and average deaths per day climbed 28 percent, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said.
Initial data suggests that Covid-19 vaccine boosters help to bolster protection against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Walensky said at a White House briefing.
Brazil reports 234 more Covid related deaths
Brazil has had 7,765 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 234 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said.
The South American country has now registered 22,184,824cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 616,691, according to ministry data, in the world’s second-deadliest outbreak outside the United States.
Omicron pressures ICUs in France
France reports 2,498 people in intensive care units for Covid-19. The number is up by 37 in the last 24 hours.
The country also registered 141 more coronavirus-related fatalities which brings the death toll to 93,338 since the beginning of the pandemic.
The occupancy of the ICUs in the country is surging as cases rise while the fully vaccinated ratio of over 67 million people is at 71 percent.
Switzerland OKs Comirnaty jabs for children
The Swiss medicines agency Swissmedic approved the vaccination of children aged between five and 11 with Pfizer-Biontech’s Comirnaty vaccine.
“Clinical trial results show that the vaccine is safe and effective in this age group,” it said in a statement.
The Comirnaty vaccine is administered in two doses of ten micrograms three weeks apart.
An ongoing clinical trial of more than 1,500 people “shows that the Covid-19 vaccine offers almost complete protection against serious illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 5 to 11-year-olds,” it said.